“Probably. But it’s Covid, everyone does,” laughs Grace Rouvray when asked if she has a drinking problem. “I definitely love a solid glass of Pinot Noir and the Pinot Palooza festival in Sydney is my favourite day of the year. The name 600 Bottles of Wine came about when I explained the plot of the show to a friend and he responded ‘So its your life!’ to which I replied ‘Yeah, or as close to what I remember after drinking 600 Bottles of Wine.’
“In answer to your question, it’s more a yes than a probably,” the actress/writer confirms. “Look, you swipe drunk, date drunk, have sex drunk, regret it drunk, debrief it drunk and repeat. I’ve been single for two and half years, if two and a half years of app dating doesn’t turn you into a borderline alcoholic then you’re not doing it right.”
It’s exactly this type of candour, which makes 600 Bottles of Wine such a charm.
“I started writing blogs first, my friend and I would set writing challenges with arbitrary word counts and deadlines,” she tells us how it all started for the actor/stand up comedian. “I wrote the story of my first one night stand, the expectation versus the sobering reality. My friend read it and wrote back within an hour. I still remember the text back, ‘This could be something.’ I squirrelled away and wrote more blogs about my pathetic personal life for about a year and eventually shared them on social media. One blog was shared virally by blogger Constance Hall with thousands of comments and shares. I read every single comment from every single woman tagging their friends and saying things like ‘OMG. This is us!’ Or ‘Read this, it’s our life but written by someone else. I love you.’ From there, I repurposed the blogs into the scripts. The decision to cast myself was absolutely for the acting platform at the time.”
Grace cites films such as Other People and Obvious Child and TV series Transparent and Master of None as inspirations. “I’d hazard a guess that most female writers of this generation would hold Lena Dunham’s Girls in very high esteem, and I join them,” she adds. “She [Dunham] started a new wave for how females could be written back in 2012. With Sex and City starting to feel dated, Girls blew in and let us know that dick chats and underwhelming warehouse parties were the norm and women all over the world felt seen. I know I did.”
Unlike the solitary writing process, Grace needed a team to make the series, and she says that the mostly female crew on the show was completely organic. “I met [director] Ainslie [Clouston] on the set of a commercial and a year later we ended up working together in casting. I’d told her about 600 and she asked to read the scripts. The next day she called me three times whilst reading the first script, by the fourth call I knew that she was the person to direct the show. [Producer] Bec [Bignell] and I would chat in acting class about all things industry related. We were both late to class every week as we rushed from our corporate office jobs at the time. Whilst waiting patiently outside till we were allowed into class I’d listen to Bec’s curiosity, passion and alternate points of view on the industry. Plus we are both from the country which organically bonds you in the city! Our DOP Emma [Elias] was a recommendation from a friend, I went on to her website and absolutely adored her work. We had a whole bunch of power house women on set each day which definitely made getting naked a hell of a lot easier.”
Initially, Grace envisioned that 600 Bottles of Wine would screen on Youtube like so many other web series, however, her producer Bec Bignell from Cockatoo Co-Lab had other ideas. “With her audience centred approach to story telling, she saw the potential for the story to reach a larger and more targeted audience. Once the post production was complete, we locked down the show whilst Bec worked with distributors and networks. The show never premiered on the web, its first home was BBC Three.
“That was a very overwhelming experience,” Grace admits. “It was definitely a bucket list moment to premiere on a premium global platform to an International audience of women as it reinforced that the show was relatable to women the world over as we’d intended. It launched in the UK on BBC Three in May 2018 and Network Ten broadcast it in Australia later that year. Given it was easily discoverable on BBC iPlayer, our audience in the UK grew rapidly and the international momentum continued to grow; we’ve been acquired in Finland, Canada, New Zealand and now Netflix.”
Made up of four 15 minute episodes, it’s not surprising to discover that Grace has plenty more material for Season 2. “We are navigating the money thing for S2, although with Covid we may have drunk the budget. So if there are wine companies, dating application software companies or condom companies looking to collaborate I would be open to chatting. In fact as a long time user and appreciator of Skyn lifestyle condoms it would the dream to work with them one day.”
Photos by Alex Vaughan Photography